Hundreds of Millions Annually - The Price of False Alarms


The price we pay for false alarms is staggering, hidden, and growing. Sadly many first responder’s lives have been lost responding to calls when no emergency existed. We pay a fortune for the excessive personnel time and the costly wear and tear on police cars, fire engines, and fire trucks all for nothing. We lose precious time when we are unable to respond to real alarms when resources are not immediately available.


Lets’ take a look at an alarming fact (pun intended):


According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):


“Unwanted fire alarms are a problem for the fire service, businesses, and the public. In 2009, fire departments went to 16 false alarms for every 10 fires, and 45 false alarms for every 10 structure fires. In 2009, almost half (45%) of false alarm responses were to unintentional activations, one-third (32%) were due to system malfunctions, 8% resulted from malicious or mischievous false alarms, and 15% were due to other false alarms.”


By these facts 45% of fire alarm responses are a total waist of our resources. Forgetting for the moment about the time lost in payroll dollars, we will just focus on the cost of a typical fire truck being $ 500,000.00 and ascribe over its life $ 225,000.00 (45%) as wasted money – this is actually significantly understated due to the cost of maintenance. Now just think of the tens of thousands of fire engines and ladder trucks (which cost $ 1,000,000.00 each) that there are in the United States alone. Even with a generous twenty year life cycle we are burning tax dollars at a staggering rate. Responding to false alarms can easily delay response to real fires where seconds count, costing precious lives and greater than necessary property damage, both hidden additional costs.


Now think about police responding to false intruder alarms where the numbers are much higher. Over 90% of intruder alarm responses are malfunctions of poorly installed system  – not end user error as most alarm companies would have you believe. Our nation’s police are putting millions of miles a year on our police cars all for nothing!


We are all responsible for this plague: as consumers we need to be more discerning when contracting for alarm system services, as alarm system service providers we need to be much more professional and responsible. Alarm service providers need to worry less about recurring revenue long term contracts instead focusing on their workmanship properly designed systems.  At the heart of the majority of these false alarms are poorly planned and poorly installed cheap or “free” security and fire alarm systems. Illegally, most alarm systems are not installed to state and local electrical codes, and most systems are not filed with or inspected by local building and electrical inspectors as they should be. We pay taxes to have local fire marshals and electrical inspectors in place, so use them; require the contractors you hire to pull permits for their work and have them inspected as required – it’s the law. For a list of requirements you can insist on from your alarm contractor read my prior post titled “Want faster 911 Response? Here’s How”.


You can help save the lives of our dedicated first responders and help stem the hundreds of millions of wasted tax dollars. Be a discerning alarm system consumer. You will be safer for your efforts while saving tax payer dollars!


Please connect with me on LinkedIn, and as always your likes and comments are greatly appreciated. Felix

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